VANCOUVER – Cody Hodgson has resolved one issue regarding his trade from the Buffalo Sabres.
He reclaimed his car Friday as he quietly snuck into Rogers Arena and picked it up. Former Canucks teammate Alex Burrows drove it to the rink for Hodgson from the Vancouver airport after the centre was shipped to the Buffalo Sabres in a surprise deal at the NHL trading deadline.
But Hodgson still has several other matters to sort out. The first is the feeling of what it will be like to suit up for the Sabres on Saturday against his former Canuck teammates—less than a week after the deal.
“It’s a different feel,” said Hodgson, during an availability with a few reporters at a Vancouver hotel. “It feels weird to be like a guest at home. It’s just different, but I’ll be used to it (Saturday) night—on the ice.”
Hodgson, who is still trying to figure out how to get belongings from his Vancouver apartment to Buffalo, also tried to clear up another matter that has had fans and media buzzing this week. No, he said, he did not request a trade from the Canucks.
Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis has hinted Hodgson might have asked to be dealt. Meanwhile, Hodgson’s agent Ritch Winter tweeted—twice—that the 22-year-old Toronto native met last weekend with Canucks coach Alain Vigneault.
But Vigneault has denied the claim.
“I was as shocked as anybody,” said Hodgson.
He got the news Monday after the Canucks’ bus had arrived back at the team’s hotel in the Phoenix area. He was walking back to the team hotel with defenceman Alexander Sulzer when Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, also walking with them, learned via his PDA that his fellow pedestrians had just received their walking papers from the Canucks.
“(Sulzer and I) looked at each other and started laughing because it was 15 minutes after the trade deadline,” said Hodgson. “We didn’t think that was possible.”
Moments later, Hodgson learned from a TV reporter that the deal was, indeed, done.
The rookie centre, who was Vancouver’s first-round draft choice (10th overall) in 2008, also denied that he had any hard feelings toward Vigneault. The Canucks coach initially questioned the severity of a back injury, suffered in the summer of 2009 under a Vancouver off-ice training program, that forced Hodgson to miss most of his final junior campaign with the OHL’s Brampton Batallion and a chance to play for Canada a second time at the world junior championships.
“I don’t look back at anything that’s happened here,” said Hodgson. “I’m happy for my time here. I’m really grateful that they drafted me and gave me the opportunity to play. They helped me develop into the player that I am today. So I have nothing but good things to say about the organization.”
Hodgson has sat down and evaluated the transaction and believes it was just a “hockey trade” for players—20-year-old winger Zack Kassian and 24-year-old offensive defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani—who had something valuable to contribute to the Canucks.
Hodgson acknowledged the Canucks are deep down the middle. He has moved up to the second line with Buffalo from the third line with Vancouver, where Gillis said he would have been stuck for three to five years behind top pivots Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.
The Sabres (29-27-8) are unbeaten with Hodgson in the lineup. They have posted two shutouts—a 2-0 win in Anaheim in his first game Wednesday and a 1-0 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday.
Hodgson has yet to record a point as a Sabre. But he was on the ice for two of his new team’s three goals.
“Obviously, we’re in tight now with Buffalo,” said Hodgson. “I’ve got to move on and try to help this team win. We’ve won the last two games now. Win a few more and, hopefully, we’ll be in a playoff spot and we’ll go on from there.”
Meanwhile, Kassian, Buffalo’s first choice (13th overall) in 2009, said he has gotten over some sour feelings he had briefly after the trade. The Windsor, Ont., native said he has nothing to prove Saturday to Sabres GM Darcy Regier for letting him go in his first year as a pro.
As a young player, he always has to prove himself, but will use the trade as motivation to get better.
Kassian and Hodgson will renew their rivalry Saturday following battles against each other in the OHL playoffs when Kassian played for Peterborough and Windsor. But Kassian said the focus should not be on him or Hodgson.
“They have a good team, and I don’t think it’s about me or Cody (Saturday) night,” said Kassian. “It’s about getting them two points.”
Notes: Gragnani will also play his first game against the Sabres. Vigneault confirmed that he will be in the lineup.